Steelers Ready for Chiefs ... This Time

Two years and four days ago, the Steelers found themselves in the death spiral of their season at Arrowhead Stadium. Tonight should be different.

Since 1992, the Steelers have played 10 meaningful games against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Nine of those games were played at Arrowhead Stadium, and the Steelers went 4-5.

Ben Roethlisberger played there for the first time in the ninth of those games – in 2009. He had heard all the stories about one of America's great football arenas but admitted he wasn't all that impressed – until the kickoff.

"I remember getting there and saying, ‘This isn't really as loud as I thought it was going to be,'" Roethlisberger said. "And then they took the opening kickoff back and it got really loud."

Roethlisberger laughed at the memory. "It was a neat place to play," he said.

The result wasn't too "neat," of course. The defending champion Steelers were 11-point favorites over the 2-7 Chiefs, who were jump-started by a 97-yard touchdown return of the opening kickoff by Jamaal Charles.

The Chiefs won in overtime to send the Steelers reeling. The loss was the second of a five-game losing streak that knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs.

Tonight, the Steelers enter Arrowhead Stadium again as double-digit favorites, but these Chiefs are much better. Yes, they're 4-6 and struggling but only because of a problem at one position: quarterback.

Starter Matt Cassel was lost for the season with a hand injury on Nov. 13 and has been replaced by Tyler Palko, the former West Allegheny High and University of Pitt quarterback who spent a couple of weeks on the Steelers' active roster in 2009.

The left-handed Palko made his first career start last Monday night and threw three interceptions in a 34-3 loss at New England.

The Chiefs picked up veteran quarterback Kyle Orton during the week, but are leaving Palko in the saddle – at least to start the game.

He was asked how it could be any more difficult to start a career with prime-time against both the Patriots and Steelers.

"I guess if I thought about it like that then I would probably sit here and feel sorry for myself," Palko said. "But it's football. You can't pick the schedule. You have to play every week. I don't know, really, any defenses that you are going to face in the NFL that are bad. You have good ones and you have great ones. It just so happens the last two weeks we face two great defensive minds, as far as coordinators, so it is going to be a challenge for us."

The Steelers remember Palko as a tough, competitive and smart young quarterback.

"I liked him," said Brett Keisel. "I enjoyed harassing him a little bit when he was running our show team. It'll be fun to go out there and talk a little bit to him on a real stage."

Of course, the Steelers remember their last visit to Arrowhead less fondly. It was one of the games that made them realize they weren't the world champions any more.

"We went up there and laid an egg," Keisel said. "I remember that game because we were in a skid, so it was like, ‘All right, we're going to Kansas City and they have a losing record.' Everyone thought we would get back on the right track. We went up there and had a 17-7 lead and just didn't make it happen. We made a lot of foolish mistakes on our end. So I remember it and I don't want that to happen again."

The 7-3 Steelers enter this game off a bye week and will be at full strength, with the exception of outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

They've also made a few changes at the start of their six-game homestretch. They've promoted Antonio Brown ahead of Hines Ward at wide receiver and Doug Legursky ahead of Chris Kemoeatu at left guard.

They've won five of their last six games and are not only in the running for another division championship, but the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

The Chiefs also considered themselves a contender after adding 40 new players since that 2009 season. But they lost All-Pro running back

Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL in Week 2 and spiraled to an 0-3 start. The Chiefs rallied with four straight wins, but lost Cassel two games later and are considered dead in the water – at least by Las Vegas.

"You must go on," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said of the critical injuries. "They aren't going to cancel the game, so you have to be ready. You have to be developing your players.

"That being said, we were a young, developing team as it was. We had been moving in the right direction, and we felt really good about where we were going. Then we lose a couple of core guys that you are kind of shaping your team around. That's a jolt and a shock to reality. But you have to go on."


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